Week 25 & 26: Summer Quinoa Salads
What are your thoughts on quinoa? Many vegetarians know and love it, and while it is becoming more mainstream, I know it may sound like hippy-dippy health food to others. I really enjoy it because it is a great vehicle for other flavours. The big selling feature for me is that for a grain, it packs a real protein punch. Bonus, it is a *complete* source of protein (so it’s got all nine essential amino acids that your body needs) unlike some other plant-based proteins. Okay enough health talk (but if you’re curious, you can read more here: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/quinoa/).
I’m doing a two-in-one post here combining week 25 and 26 as I made these two salads at the same time as they are both quinoa-based (and I had technical difficulties with my website last week). I’m working on cooking more meals ahead of time so I have packed lunches ready to go during busy weeks, while trying not to get stuck eating the same thing every day. The first salad is actually an old favourite, it’s a grilled corn and cheddar quinoa, and the second one is a brand new recipe, it’s a strawberry burrata quinoa salad with pistachios. Both recipes are from Jessica over at How Sweet Eats. In case you couldn’t tell, that’s one of my go-to favourite blogs. I love her ideas and flavour combos.
To round out my meal prep, I also made a modified version of the “Long-Weekend Grilled Vegetable Salad” from the Oh She Glows cookbook, which I haven’t written more about here as the blog is meant to share recipes that are accessible online to everyone. With that said, if you own that cookbook, I wholeheartedly recommend the recipe! It has a lime cilantro vinaigrette and I use grilled peppers and corn and top it with a bit of crumbled goat cheese… easily one of my favourite summer salads on the planet. These two quinoa-based beauties are right up there too and are a little more filling so they are great for lunches.
Ingredients: quinoa, cheese, produce – veggies, strawberries, fresh herbs. These recipes are a great way to use up a bounty of garden-fresh summer herbs! Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth if you are vegetarian, or you can just use water but the broth adds a bit more flavour. I couldn’t find burrata at the grocery store so I substituted fresh mozzarella, which works too. For the cheddar, I like to use a nice aged white cheddar (1-2 years old is perfect!).
Timing & Yield: We were multitasking ninjas in the kitchen making these. I had three different salads on the go plus stopped for snack breaks, so it’s hard to quote specific times. Maybe two hours for all three? Ditto goes for portions – we were mixing and matching and I have no idea how many servings, but definitely enough for two people to have dinner and leftovers for a couple lunches.
Serving: I served all three salads together as a meal, which was perfect in the hot summer heat when I didn’t want anything too heavy. They are great leftover for lunches and would make a fantastic barbecue side dish or potluck contribution. The strawberry burrata salad should be served chilled or room temperature, while the grilled corn and cheddar quinoa can be enjoyed hot or cold.
How did it go? Great! These are pretty straightforward to make. As long as you know how to make quinoa, I’m having a bit of a hard time thinking of what one could possibly mess up here. Actually, that’s a lie… I went on autopilot and made the quinoa for the corn/cheddar dish with water instead of broth, which is usually nice for added flavouring, but it still turned out great.
Taste: I wouldn’t be sharing if they weren’t both delicious, so that almost goes without saying. They are a nice yin and yang sort of complement as the grilled corn and cheddar quinoa has a scrumptious savoury element while the strawberry mozzarella salad is a little sweeter but balanced out by the tart lemon in the dressing and the freshness from the abundance of herbs.
- Use a microplane to grate the lemon zest
- If using a grill pan, don’t wrap your corn cobs in foil – you can put them directly on the grill pan
- Remember to thoroughly rinse the quinoa before you cook it to get rid of any bitterness
Luke’s recipe reviews and ratings:
- Corn + cheddar: Fresh corn, perfectly cooked quinoa, herby fresh taste. Cheddar mixes nice with quinoa to give it some flavour. Nice healthy afternoon lunch. Rating: thumbs up.
- Strawberry + herb + mozzarella: Fresh Ontario strawberries mixed with mint/basil/parsley – nice combo. Big hunks of cheese, surprise pistachio now and then… probably would double the pistachios in the recipe. Lots of bright flavours going on and probs one of my favourite salads to date. Rating: two thumbs up.